Why Companies Collect Art – Some ARCO’s Insights

by | Mar 9, 2015

What’s great about art fairs is not only the art, the social events, and the people you meet but also the education, information, and knowledge you can gain. The panels, lectures, artists’ talks, and discussions are enriching and eye-opening. I participated in “Art as a Corporate Value,” a professional seminar that took place during ARCOMadrid, the yearly Spanish art fair.

According to The International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, More than 800 companies have an art collection. This figure may imply the collections’ importance and influence. What is the role of the art collection in the company? That’s what the participants tried to answer.

One panel, which was organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Belgium and Luxembourg in Spain, brought professionals who manage corporate art collections from Belgium and Luxembourg.  “Why Companies Collect Art” gathered Delphine Munro, head of art at Fundación EIB and board member and secretary of IACCCA (International Association of Corporate Collections of Contemporary Art); Philippe Dupont, Arendt & Medernach, creator and manager of Arendt & Medernach Art Collection; Christine Mostert, private banking art advisor; and Xavier Tricot, artist, art historian and exhibition curator.

Why Corporations Collect Art was the first topic to be discussed and the reasons are varied. “If we collect art it’s not to possess art – it is to collect for the future. As a collector, your influence and your name will long life if you contribute to your society; you do so by donating your collection to your city, community, country,” said Mr. Tricot.

“We are not buying art that carries the corporate’s values in the artwork itself, we are trying to give a panoramic view of the creation. We are not trying to promote messages but rather it (the collecting activity) aims to give back to our stakeholders; it is our way of giving a human face to our company. We are trying to create a dialog with the civil society; artists are an important component in civil society, as such we want to give them the windows and ability to present their works.” added Ms.Munro.

Using Art in Corporate Business life was another subject that was discussed. Mr. Dupont mentioned art classes that were being given for the company employees. These classes’ target is to help the employees ask questions about the art they see and in a reflecting action, to ask questions in their daily jobs – actually assisting the employees to improve and develop their critical thinking. (For more on this you might want to read one of my posts that talks about using Google Art Project to teach critical thinking.)

Ms. Munro articulated that their art collection, which is part of the corporate social responsibility policy, is their way to create and develop a dialog with their employees. EIB exposes its collection through a virtual museum (which includes all the works online), workshops, exhibition openings to the employees and their families, and organized activities around art. All these activities, some of which are educational and some recreational, help the company to engage the employees, the best company’s ambassadors and develop their feeling of belonging and pride in the company.

EIB not only exhibits in its own facilities but rather looks to enrich the cultural offering by lending works to other institutions, especially in times when budgets are being cut around Europe.

Buying art is only one part of the corporation’s target – the other part (and the more important one I would add) is to share and present these works. The IACCCA encourages its members to exhibit their collections. Every September, the members of IACCCA open their doors to the public and host many events that relate to art.

ARCOMadrid 2015

How corporations choose the artworks they buy
EIB is not speculating on young artists but rather tracks the artist prices, checking their recognition and the places they have presented.

Mr. Dupont pointed out that “We are always right because we choose to buy what we like. If it gets more value? Maybe. Is it relevant? I don’t think so.” Another criterion Arendt & Medernach uses to choose art is to buy only what they exhibited – if the staff liked the presented work, they will buy it.

The panelists were asked about their commitment to not only buying but maintaining the artworks. The answers for that question included yearly reports about each artwork’s condition (in case they need restoration etc.), qualified storage for the works that are not presented, rotation of works so they won’t be exposed to light, managing the collection based on ICOM (International Council of Museums) requirements, teaching the cleaning staff how to deal with the artworks and more.

Overall it was a very interesting panel. Normally corporate collections aren’t getting the necessary exposure in the media or are known to the public and I believe it’s important to learn from these corporations how we can share the value of art with our stakeholders and the society around us.


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